I’m on edge. In my own home. Held captive by a four legged tyrant who himself is captive.
We are tied together in our misery.
He is frustrated with his tiny environment and his slow-to-heal leg. I am overwhelmed with the never ending duty of nurse, supervisor, and caregiver.
It’s too much.
The guilt that I feel in even saying this is too much.
I can’t spend more than 4 hours away from the house during the day, and evenings are no longer my own to give away.
Like Cinderella I have a curfew, but unlike Cinderella my curfew is attached to the sun going down not the strike of midnight.
5pm at the latest.
4pm most days.
That means my fur-baby has been home in his 4’x3′ cage for 4 hours (5 at 5 pm) and he’s ready to bust out of there. I don’t blame him for feeling this way, but I am also exhausted with the whole routine.
On December 30, 2015, my Greyson had an accident and his right hind leg was broken just above the knee joint, clear through. (Another post to come about this – it’s been too painful to consider writing just yet.)
My day goes something like this.
Asleep – on the couch, because he has the bedroom – until 5:30am, if I’m lucky.
As I wake from a delicious dream of happy places and faces and joyful adventures there is no time to luxuriate in those feelings because I’ve woken to the sound of…
“Ok baby,” I say my voice barely audible still fighting through the peaceful sleep into my waking nightmare, “I’m coming.”
But I don’t move. My entire body fills with tension at the first “Mew” I hate the sound, what used to be cute and endearing now shreds my soul like a baton of razor blades. “Mew, mew,” my gut cringes at the sound, my mind screams “please, just 10 more minutes.”
I repeat, “OK baby, OK sweetheart, it’s OK, I’m coming.”
Still I don’t move, inside I cry, “Please make it stop. Please.” My shoulders are tense, my gut is still cringing waiting for the next “Mew”.
I want to cry. I want to cry my heart out – but how would it help me, and if I did start crying I would still have to get myself off my make-shift-couch-bed and stumble into the bedroom to play nurse and supervisor.
Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. Mew.
Oh no! I hear it. I know I have to get up, I know I have to go in there before he turns the entire cage upside down. Scratching in the litter tray when he doesn’t need to use it is the beginning, then comes kicking the litter out of the cage onto the far reaches of the bedroom carpet, then comes pulling up the mats I’ve placed under everything, which results in the water tipping over and litter in his food.
“OK baby, I’m coming sweetheart, just a second.” No part of me wants to move. But I know I have to.
I get up and go pee myself. I am still taking care of myself first because I know that if I didn’t pee I’d be unable to help him with a morning bladder.
I can’t hear him from the bathroom and I sit there for longer than necessary. Guilt oozes out of me as I sit. The urge to cry is still building within my chest, my head hangs low. I feel like a terrible person.
But – I reason with myself – we are not all cut out for nursing or we’d all be one…right?
It’s a stupid argument that doesn’t hold much weight. Sure nursing is possibly the last job on earth I would ever consider doing – kudos to those who can – but this is not someone else’s responsibility, this is mine. I chose this. So I better get off the toilet and deal with it.
On a work day I’m on a time constraint too, because I have to get myself ready for work. After a couch sleep that is not the greatest and involves lots of waking through the night, I have to find a way to look presentable and not like “something the cat dragged in…” (pun intended…haha.)
I make his breakfast, a quarter tin of wet food. This is a bit of a treat still left over from the week he was on the drugs. During that time he didn’t seem to want to eat dry food or drink water, so I fed him mostly wet food.
For me it’s also a way to subdue him while I’m putting the cage back together, and cleaning the litter tray when it’s been used.
He does eventually pee in the morning but only after I’ve either a) gotten up and he can hear that I’m actually going to be there soon, or b) after I’ve put his cage back together if I took too long to get there.
I take the food in and release him from his confines.
While he eats, I set about straightening his cage, cleaning the tray, sweeping up the excess cat litter, taking the water bowl out ready to clean (it’s filled with sprayed litter).
I take in the carpet around me that is sprayed with litter too and know that I cant do anything about it now, it will have to wait until later when I have time to drag out the vacuum. The sight of it everywhere kills me.
I stroke his back and head. I try to always leave my frustration and my exhaustion at the door and give him as much love as I can when I’m with him.
He sidles up to me and rubs his head on my arm, or leg, or whatever is closest and purrs his little heart out.
My heart melts for him.
I feel for him.
I know he’s frustrated with his confines. I know he is frustrated with this gimpy leg that is still not fully functional.
I feel like a monster for not jumping out of bed to set him free, for not heeding his call immediately, and for cringing at his cries.
He doesn’t hate me though, he loves me, and I relax and enjoy the few moments of snuggle time.
It doesn’t last long because his next move is to try to break out of the barriers I’ve set up in the bedroom around the cage.
Makeshift walls out of a partition for the cage I didn’t use, and left over cardboard boxes I’ve flattened to keep him from getting past the bed.
My stomach twists again. I sigh. Heavily. I sigh again. “Please,” I pray silently, “please just lay down and enjoy the petting, please let’s not start again…”
No one hears my prayers.
He starts walking up to the edge of the cardboard where there is a gap between it and the wall due to the baseboard heater. He steps on the heater and rubs his head on the corner of the cardboard wall which is completely inadequate. He can easily fit through this gap – and has before to my utter panic.
I pick him up and move him as far away as possible, which is not that far in our 8×10 space.
He immediately starts his way back to the gap.
I sigh again. This game is so frustrating to me I don’t want to play anymore. I wait until his head is through the gap and I pick him up again, putting him gently down far away.
He limps back to the gap.
This happens for at least 20 pick-ups. Each day we rack up maybe 1-200 of these cycles. EVERY DAY without fail. Over the course of the month so far that’s approximately 6,200 times we’ve “played this game”.
And I’m so done.
Eventually, by number 20 I’m beyond over it.
I put him back in the cage.
I take myself to the shower.
When I get out, I check on him.
He’s pooped – also a morning ritual. And sometimes an evening one. At least a daily one, sometimes twice daily!
It’s all that food.
While I’ve been in the shower he’s also tried to bury the poop using one of the mats.
I let him free.
I clean up the mess, and straighten everything. I clean his water again, because it is again littered with cat litter.
Running out of time before work, I put him straight back in the cage with a few dental treats and go get ready.
He settles and goes to sleep.
I go to work. Bedraggled, tired, and in a funk that I cant quite explain but may have something to do with waking up and instantly cringing with dread.
Lunch time I go home for lunch from work. I have 50 minutes at home because I – thankfully work 5 minutes from home.
Sometimes when I arrive home and park my car in the garage I sit and sigh for a few moments. I honestly don’t want to go up the stairs. I do of course, walk up the stairs, and I hesitate at the front door steeling myself for the moment I walk through.
The minute I walk in the door the Mewing starts.
My heart goes out to him, he’s been cooped up for four hours and he needs out, he needs stimulation, he needs attention.
I know this. I know it and my heart cries for him.
But I’m exhausted. I need my own space. I need time to recharge and I don’t have that at home because the minute I get there I am nurse. I am supervisor. I am cleaner. I am chef.
I steel myself and head to the bedroom to survey what he needs.
Water, fresh litter, tidy cage.
I let him out putting a few treats down to deter him from getting away. I was never much of a ‘treat’ giver before this incident and I feel bad about stuffing his face with food every time I need to straighten his cage, but I’m only one person and it works.
I scratch his head and back while he purrs. Sometimes he rolls around on the carpet like it’s the most luxurious thing he’s ever experienced; to be able to stretch to his full capacity and roll around.
Guilt hits me in the heart again. He’s stuck in there and I can walk free.
I’m hungry and I have to make lunch, but I sit with him for as long as possible. Then I put him back in the cage, rush to the kitchen and throw some food together (I try to keep leftovers in the fridge that I can nuke in a few minutes).
I sit down to eat.
Mew, mew, mew. He calls.
I scarf food down burning the roof of my mouth as I go.
Mew, mew. Maaaaaw!!!
He can hear me. I try to be as quiet as a mouse…
…but he’s a CAT so a mouse sounds like the thing he wants the most in the world.
My food sits like lead in my stomach. Most days I cook and eat my food in less than 10 minutes – that can’t be healthy.
I head back to the bedroom to check on him. Sometimes he’s pooped again – probably a direct result of all the food I’m feeding him to keep him subdued while I clean his cage.
It’s a vicious cycle.
I look at the clock. I have 15 minutes to get back to work, it takes 5, but I cant stay any longer. I kiss his head, put him back in the cage, and leave the house before the mewing starts.
In the garage, I sit in my car in silence, willing the tears away. With a deep breath I head back to work.
Work is actually the place I least want to be in all of the world, my job is as unfulfilling as a job can be, and under normal circumstances I am never there earlier than necessary. It sickens me most that work and home are equally unappealing to me.
There is no where I can go that is my own safe haven. I have nothing but the few minutes in the car between work and home.
At the end of the work day I pick up the things I need at the grocery store or the pet food store and then head home. I try not to be out beyond 4pm (I finish at 3pm) because I know he’s been cooped up since 11:45am and needs out.
I walk in the door.
Mew, mew, mew!
He hears me come in the door.
My place is very small. One bedroom condo all of about 650sqft. It’s small.
I take my shoes off and head straight to the bedroom to assess the situation. Do I need the cryo-suit, or just some food and water?
He is always at the gate of the cage, looking like he’s so happy to see me, and so excited to soon be released.
I go and get the things I need, and change out of my work clothes.
Then we set about the same ritual as the morning. I put the food down to keep him entertained while I clean up the inside of his cage, tray, food, change his water, etc. He eats.
This time I spend at least 2 hours with him. Sometimes that involves the “game” of stopping him from getting through the gap for 30 to 40 minutes, followed by the same amount of time deterring him from jumping. But usually by the second hour he is content to lie down and stretch or snuggle.
On special days he will snuggle up into me as I lie on the floor and rest his head on my outstretched arm as he sleeps. Very sweet, I relish those moments.
By about 6pm I’m starving again.
I rouse him from his nap and see if he wants to finish his food. With a final stroke of his head I pick him up and put him back in the cage.
Then I head to the kitchen to make something that will last until the next day’s lunch.
This time of night he usually – (mostly) – gives me until 7:30pm before he cries for attention again. For that hour and a half he sleeps and I run around doing all the things I’ve neglected from the previous day. Dishes, cooking food, a little cleaning, then eat.
At 7:30pm (like clockwork), he starts meowing again.
Some days, I feel so exhausted I have nothing left to give and I wait it out like first thing in the morning, willing it to stop and him to settle again just for another 10 minutes.
It never works, just prolongs the time I have to listen to his calls.
I stop whatever I was doing – catching up on email, watching a show to relax – pee, and then head back in for the next 2 hours.
The same 2 hours as earlier. The first hour is constant supervision to stop him from escaping, jumping, climbing, and generally doing anything that might injure his leg more. The second hour is much calmer, stretching, sleeping, snuggling. Mostly. Some days the full 2 hours are a constant battle.
By 9:30pm I am done. I’m tired, and useless.
I put him back in his cage – again with a few treats – and I shut off the light with a “good night baby.”
Most nights he knows this is it and he settles down. Some nights though he calls, scratches, goes to the bathroom, turns his cage upside down and it can be after 10pm before I get out of there.
Whatever time I leave the bedroom, I change into my night shirt and get into my couch-bed, falling into exhausted slumber within minutes.
Throughout the night I wake to mewing, most nights though unless there is scratching involved he’s just testing the waters and will settle down again within a minute or two.
I get it. We used to sleep together on my bed; he’d snuggle into my body for warmth and comfort. Now I’m far away, and he’s in a cage all alone. It sucks.
At 5:30am – again like clockwork – he starts up like the day before, and we start the exact cycle all over again.
On a weekend the only difference is that I am home during the hours I was at work on a weekday, so he is less settled than he would be if I wasn’t here. I spend more time on the floor, and less time away from the house.
I’ve tried taking things into the bedroom with me that I could “do” while I’m in there. Like one of the beautiful colouring books I got for Christmas, or a book to read, or a notepad and pen. These don’t bode well with Greyson, who immediately gets “brattier” if I’m not full attention on him.
I even tried reading poetry TO him, and that drove him almost out of his mind! Haha, I did get a little perverse pleasure from driving him crazy for a few minutes.
Again, I totally understand the behavior and the need for attention. He’s been cooped up all day. I feel for him.
So we watch Netflix together, something older that I’ve seen before so I don’t have to concentrate.
There are playful moments bordering on willful moments – teasing moments perhaps.
Like the baseboard heater.
Sometimes when the heat is pumping out of it, Greyson likes to lie in front of it. As close as he possibly can. He also likes to put his paw inside where the heat generating things are…and I spend 30 minutes or so (or however long until the room temperature rises and the heat shuts off) swatting his paw out of that gap. Fearful that he will burn himself. It becomes like a game though, I feel him smiling at me as I take his paw out once more. He keeps it down for a moment, his eyes never leaving me, then puts it back into the gap as he watches me, waiting for me to react. Sometimes this action results in lots of chest rubs and head scratches for distraction (his chest and head, not mine!)…and he purrs contentedly.
I like those moments. In those moments the tension in my shoulders recedes.
Then there are the sweet moments too. Days where he just wants to snuggle. He’s not trying to get through the barriers, not trying to tear up the mats, not trying to stick his paw in the baseboard heater, or jump on the bed or the window sill or any other surface – he’s content to just snuggle into me with his head on my arm and his paws on my neck (usually). His little face staring at me with his eyes half closed until he falls asleep.
I love those moments. In those moments I feel relaxed, and like I too could fall asleep.
But I don’t, because I don’t trust the little…um…love… to not wake up and escape his confines and do something stupid!
So it’s not all bad.
I am exhausted with the seemingly endless cycle of it, and not having any part of my evenings to myself.
But there are good moments that take away my rising tension and make me feel grateful for the way in which we’re getting to know each other and share in these beautiful precious moments.
My good friend tells me that all of the above is like having an infant. That feeling that even when he’s sleeping I am on high alert for when he wakes, my senses stretch into the bedroom where he’s sleeping and never really stop listening, even when I’m sleeping. That may be the greatest source of my exhaustion. High alert that never switches off. This is the feeling my new mom friends talk of too.
This experience has solidified for me that I would not want to have a baby or adopt an infant without a partner.
While I would make it through the tough times, I am not certain how much of me would be left at the end as we moved into toddlerhood – and I mean that without any hint of joking. I wonder if that is what happened to my mom? Did the infant me drive all sanity from her mind that there was nothing left by the time toddlerhood came about?
However, I would still like to have an infant WITH a partner. Even with my age and my lack of partner, I have not yet given up hope of having a baby with someone I love. I will never give up hope that this miracle will occur, maybe even this year.
My fur-baby just woke and I’m needed again… I will get through this and the months will fly by!
Warm smiles and Love,